Freud’s Case Histories Illustrate Very Clearly Some of Freud’s Most Basic Theories, Such as His Theories of Identification, the Role of Transference, and the Way in Which the Symptom Is a Formation of the Unconscious

Topics: Sigmund Freud, Psychoanalysis, Rat Man Pages: 8 (2778 words) Published: March 22, 2011
Essay Title: “Freud’s case histories illustrate very clearly some of Freud’s most basic theories, such as his theories of identification, the role of transference, and the way in which the symptom is a formation of the unconscious.”

“Freud’s case histories illustrate very clearly some of Freud’s most basic theories, such as his theories of identification, the role of transference, and the way in which the symptom is a formation of the unconscious.”

I have chosen the Ratman as the case history I will use to illustrate Freud’s theories. The Rat Man exposes many of Freud’s theoretical formulations as they evolved and the sessions demonstrate various examples of Freud’s techniques of the day The case study shows the features and the characteristics of obsessional neurosis and to explain Freud’s theories I will recount my understanding of how he applies techniques and uses the aforementioned topics (symptoms, identification & transference) to attempt a cure for “The Ratman”

This case history is one of a 29 year old lawyer, Ernst Lanzer who Freud treated from October 1907 for an 11 month period. Lanzer became known as the “Rat Man”. In my opinion Freud was successful in determining the cause and effect of the patient’s condition and his subsequent cure. He apparently remained symptom free until his death in 1914 in the First World War. The Rat Man presents to Freud with obsessions which had intensified over the previous four years. His main obsessions were based on fears that something might happen to a lady he admired and his father. He also had a compulsion to cut his throat. He placed himself in Freud’s hands having some knowledge of the analyst’s ideas.

In his technique, Freud was adamant from the outset that the patient adhere to free association; that is, “To say everything that came into his head, even if it was unpleasant to him, or seemed unimportant or irrelevant or senseless” (Freud 1909/2001, P. 159). The Rat Man began by talking about two friends who had been helping him with his torments, then quickly moved on to his infantile sexual impulses. He described ‘rubbing’ his governess at 4-5 years old and having erections at six. In Freud’s Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905), he put forward that studying the sexual manifestations of the child would probably tell us a lot about the sexual instinct (Freud, 1905/2001, P. 174) and that in neurotics “…the symptoms constitute the sexual activity of the patient” (Freud 1905/2001 P. 163). So the Rat Mans willingness to talk about his early sexual activity and his perversity (scopophilia) begins to show the conflict between his wish to see naked women and his later obsessional or compulsive idea. He feared that “something must happen if I thought such things and as though I must do all sorts of things to prevent it” (Freud 1909/2001, P. 162). Freud is beginning to see a connection between the Rat Man’s early sexual activity and his constant thoughts about his father’s death. Although his father died four years beforehand he is still occupied by these thoughts. He suggests the Rat Man’s original thinking is along the lines of: “If I have this wish to see a woman naked, my father_ will be bound to die” (Freud 1909/2001, P. 163).

In his second session the Rat Man begins to tell his great obsessive fear, which resulted from a torture story told to him by a cruel officer of whom he was afraid. As he finds himself unable to continue, Freud explains why he can’t spare him the details. He must overcome the ‘resistances’ and the analyst would help him as best as he could. This insistence on Freud’s part is a good example of his conviction of his analytical methods. As he was told the story Freud observed the conflict and interpreted the Rat Man’s expression as one of “horror at pleasure of his own of which he himself was unaware” (Freud, 1909/2001, P. 166). The story of rats ‘boring their way in’ to someone’s anus, caused the Rat Man to think...


References: Freud, S. (2001). Three essays on the theory of sexuality. In. J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.),
The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud (Vol
Freud, S. (2001). Character and anal eroticism. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), The
standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud (Vol
Freud, S. (2001). Notes upon a case of obsessional neurosis. In J. Strachey (Ed. And
Trans.), The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud (Vol
Freud, S. (2001). The disposition to obsessional neurosis. In J. Strachey (Ed. And Trans.),
The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud (Vol
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